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Academy Xi Blog

Overcoming Design Challenges in Atlassian

By Academy Xi

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Atlassian is Australia’s largest and most successful technology company — the startup golden child that went from small-scale startup to global leader. In the past five years, Atlassian has experienced high growth rates, from two co-founders working off a single credit card to now boasting over 2,500 employees in Australia and around the world. Out of these 2,500 employees, 150 of them make up the design team.

For a company at such a size and scale, coordinating a design team of this magnitude has its fair share of challenges. Alex Riegelman is a Lead Designer at Atlassian and is responsible for solving complex user problems. Alex discussed with us his main design challenges at Atlassian and how the company is overcoming them through communication and, of course design.

Lessons Learned from Overcoming Design Challenges

Overcoming complex design challenges is not an easy feat. One major challenge that Alex faces on a daily basis is designing for stakeholders, not the end-user. “It’s that one step removed from design that has always been one of my big challenges,” admits Alex.

That one step removed is tackling communication and aligning the company and project vision within teams. Designing for stakeholder’s requires a different communication set as Alex must align design projects with both the team and external people who also have strong opinions and investment into the vision.

“This very approach to design is about creating experiences that have products themselves as the stakeholders,” says Alex.

With strong investment comes strong opinions and for a design project and a product to be successful, the design lead must take into account different perspectives and try to align that with both the company and stakeholder vision.

The design of any product at Atlassian must abide by the decisions made by both the product and design teams. Alex’s role encompasses more than just problem framing and solving, it also involves a lot of writing and communicating ideas and progress to different people, who have different views.

Communication needs to be a big part of Alex’s role because of the necessity of ensuring that design quality is maintained and the vision of designing for stakeholder’s is aligned. The clear articulation of decisions is vital because any changes made to the Atlassian platform affects its entire product suite.

Sometimes new product concepts can be quite abstract. So, to not only communicate these ideas with his team, but also to himself, Alex uses sketchnoting.

“I use sketchnoting to create a visual representation of some very abstract concepts that I’m trying to communicate, reveals Alex. “Sometimes I’d try to do that with words and stories, but sometimes I do that visually with diagrams and drawn scenarios.”

Sketchnoting is an underlying skill set that many designers have within them and some have not yet unleashed. Studies have shown that people who create simple and quick drawings have higher retention levels than people who simply write down their thoughts on paper.

Visual note-taking blends the two approaches by using a combination of words and sketches. These visuals enable the note-taker to listen, digest, capture, and share the essence of what’s being said. Ultimately, the art of visual note-taking helps communicate abstract ideas to internal and external teams, aligning them on the same vision and scope of the product.


Excited to learn how you can visually communicate better? Come to Sketchnoting: The Power of Visual Note-Taking and let Alex Riegleman teach you the foundational drawing skills that you can use in your very own sketchnote.

Academy Xi Blog

What exactly is Customer Centricity?

By Academy Xi

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Who owns Customer-Centricity (and why it’s a challenge for organisations to get right).

There are a number of debates happening inside organisations around Customer-Centricity. Read on to learn more about:

  • Is customer centricity a business strategy or a mindset? Our opinion: when it is done well, it is both.
  • Is it the exclusive domain of Human-Centered Designers? We don’t think so, although it riffs heavily off these practices.
  • Where does Customer Centricity start and marketing end? The two are drawing ever closer together.
  • Does it flourish when executive teams buy into it? Yes, but it performs best when it moves beyond being a ‘top-down’ directive and individuals can take ownership.

As a concept, customer centricity isn’t hard to get your head around. Most of us will bring to mind the idea of keeping the customer at the centre of everything. It is often discussed in the contexts of digital transformation, customer lifetime value and corporate ‘customer culture’. Bringing customer centricity to life, however, seems to be a sticking point for many businesses. 

With 70% of customers basing their purchasing decision on how they feel they are being treated by a brand (McKinsey), customer centricity is clearly important for businesses. If there is a question to ask to determine your organisation’s status quo, it is: How “close” do your employees feel to your customers? 

Business strategy or a mindset? 

When it is done well, customer centricity is both. To set an organisation up for success, customer centricity needs to be planned for, talked about and resourced. Like anything strategic, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Many would argue however that the horse (mindset) needs to come before the cart (tools and processes). A truly customer centric organisational culture is one where each person aligns themselves with providing a great customer experience. This flows from strategic goals down to the day-to-day ‘business as usual’.

Is it a design discipline?

If you talk to human-centred designers, they will gravitate toward the idea of what we call structural customer centricity. This relates to how a company’s systems and processes are designed. If they were built with the customer’s needs in mind, then that is a structural customer centricity. This is often called customer experience (CX). From a customer’s perspective, CX pervades their every interaction with that brand. Watch our webinar “Customer Experience Unpacked” to learn more.

Is it a new lens through which to view Digital Marketing?

If you speak to a marketer, however, they will likely focus on understanding their customers, gauging their lifetime value to the company, and making the buying process as frictionless as possible. Customers want to be understood as more than an email address or part of an audience segment. The ability to know where a customer is at in their journey with your brand allows you to deliver the goods: the right message at the right time in the right way. This is another example of structural customer-centricity. Check out our recent blog ‘3 practical steps for driving CX success as a Digital Marketer’.

Is it the domain of frontline staff?

To put forward another interpretation, if you are a frontline staff member who speaks to customers, you will focus on the idea of being personally customer centric. This relates to what you personally can do to put your customer’s needs first. Customer-facing teams also have an important role to play when it comes to the way information flows through a business. They hear it all first hand: what are customers thinking, which competitors are they assessing you against and what are their pain points.

Should it be an executive-led culture change?

Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to those that are not focused on the customer (Deloitte and Touche). With such potential gain to the bottom line, it’s no surprise that executive teams are leaning in to customer centricity. When redefining any element of corporate culture, it pays to ensure that the leadership is behind it and lead by example.

How We See It

When customer centricity really starts to pay dividends for a business is when it is adopted organisation-wide. Executive leadership, strategy, design, marketing, customer service and client-facing teams all combine to leave your customer with an impression of your business. Everyone owns it. Customer centricity is as much a top-down initiative as much as it is a bottom-up way of working. And unsurprisingly, things work more smoothly when they are connected by a broader mission.

As always, it comes down to people. Do your teams have the mindset, toolkit and corporate culture needed to live and breathe customer centricity? Do they carve out time to talk about what customer-centricity actually looks like to them? Do they have access to concrete tools for being customer-centric themselves? Giving your people the resources and space they need to practice will help you set a solid foundation from which it’s possible to grow a truly customer-centered business. 

Want to talk about building a more customer-centric way of working? Check out our customer centricity training options and drop us a line.